book review, Books

Ladybird books – The keys to the Kingdom of Reading and the start of a life long love affair with books.

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While I was browsing Pinterest I came across some Ladybird book illustrations that had me all misty eyed in no time! Those little hardback books have such an endearing quality full of joyful memories. This illustration was the first book in the Key Word Reading Scheme the mainstay of primary education in the 1970s. Just looking at the pictures brings back vivid memories of toil as the five year old me tried to decipher the strange squiggles -into words.
Ladybird books

Despite never being read stories and books, once I learned – I became an avid reader -these books were beautifully illustrated – the series depicting family life of the 1950’s that was already seen as old fashioned in the 1970’s but had a profound influence on the children it was educating – including me.

Beauty and the Beast

Ladybird books were the start of my life long love of reading, seeing this picture gave me a tingle of joy – Beauty and the Beast was beyond my reading ability when it was a favourite,  I scoured the pictures to decipher the story and that memory is  vivid forty years later – The slight fear, the ugly monkey in fancy clothes, I could not understand why the girl in the story stayed with him. As an adult I can look upon this and see another underlying message, that beauty comes from within and rich people can make demands!

Rumplestiltskin Ladybird books

Another was Rumplestiltskin – he might have been a rather nasty character but I did feel that he was unfairly treated, by then my reading was much better and I have a clearer idea of the story. Imagine spinning straw into gold.

The Elves and The Shoemaker Ladybird books

Another favourite was the Elves and the Shoemaker (is that where my love of sewing came from?) Those beautiful clothes made for the Elves at the end were so quaint. Ladybird had a love affair with the 17th Century all the stories seemed to be set in that time frame, Cinderella, The Porridge Pot and Sleeping Beauty.

Crafting Ladybird books

Ladybird did not just stick to reading schemes and fairy tales; there was a vast range of Learn about books with subjects covering Crafts, Nature books to Science, History and workplaces. It is why they are such a valuable resource for social history as well as illustrating  the development of technology, the book on space included a trip to the moon long before the moon landings of the 1970s.

ladybird books sewing

I remember thumbing these crafting books desperate to try out some of the projects, only now do I see the dawning of my crafting obsessions! I still collect crafting books that are running into six bookshelves. My love of sewing began with Ladybird.

domestic life as depicted by ladybirdThere has been a great deal of criticism regarding the depiction of traditional White British Middle Class family life and stereotypical gender role models in the reading scheme – which makes me want to leap to their defence.

Idealised family values from Ladybird books

In 1960s versions Jane was shown helping her mother while Peter was helping his father wash the car. The illustrations were updated and altered a lot over the years. It is evidence of the shifting attitudes in society – the 70s was a decade of sexual liberation – shortly followed by racial equality. It is unfair to judge them as outdated and bigoted – they are representations of the society at that time. Values change with every generation but that doesn’t mean to say the past should be papered over.

Domestic life portrayed by Ladybird

The most striking memory when I see these illustrations was an overwhelming sense of being an outsider. My home life was very different, my poor father was working full time, managing a home and bringing up two children on his own while being in a deep and profound state of grief.

Ladybird books domestic life

I had an idealised vision of what family life was like for everyone else – a realisation that there was a big part of family life missing. When we had a new housekeeper, I remember a vague expectation that I would return home to a table laid for tea and that she would be wearing an apron, but it was the 1970s -they shifted in and out my life with no explanations leaving broken promises behind. Oddly enough – when I see these pictures that state of confusion comes to the fore strongly – I knew never to ask questions so spent my childhood in a state of uncertainty. All this surfacing by looking at a few images!

Vintage picnic - ladybird books

That sense of alienation is not the fault of the books, times were very different, single parents were thankfully, rare. Yet I cannot help but wonder if these depictions positively influenced me when I had children of my own:  I wanted to be a home maker, I baked with my children despite never having done it as a child myself and I remember trying to live up to a rather unrealistic ideal – one that still resonates with me after forty years.

Ladybird Books

Can these books be responsible, I wonder, for the growth of the Vintage Movement so popular in our culture today? There are so many women reaching out for the clothing and lifestyles of the 1940’s and 1950’s. Vintage Apron patterns abound and traditional home making skills are popular again – is there a deep seated perception about the past that remains imprinted from these early reading schemes I wonder?

Classic tales from Ladybird
My children loved the Billy-goats Gruff

I ponder if we are any closer to getting the balance right with reading schemes, my children’s books were alienating for them – no familiar domestic family but with Asian characters dressed in jeans and t’shirts called Biff and Chip.  I believe that while politically correct the reading scheme books did not ignite the love of reading in my children. Reading with them became the medicine of our ‘reading time’ I had a sense of unease that my children’s reading was so political. Despite reading some joyful books with them, Dr Dog was a particular favourite neither became an avid reader until they were teenagers with the advent of Harry Potter.

illustration from the Gingerbread Man

What cannot be denied is the enduring appeal – the pictures are so beautifully done. Ladybird employed talented professional artists – Harry Winfield and Martin Aitchison

The Gingerbread Man Ladybird books

I love the movement of the water is depicted in this illustration, and the changing nature of the fox is vivid.

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Harry Wingfield was an artist who worked for Ladybird up until his death in the 1980s, he illustrated  the nature books and many of the Look and See Series- they are simply beautiful. I have found memories of looking at those beautiful illustrations with awe – there was so much detail to explore

The night sky from Ladybird books

The small bite sized books contained beautifully drawn infographics, making complex subjects accessible to a young audience. There was no sense of dumbing down, science, geography, travel, technology the subject matter was vast.

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Ladybird are celebrating their centenary this year as the publishing company was set up in 1915,  you can see some of the illustrations  at the House of Illustration in London until mid September.

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I am sure I am not alone in the love of Ladybird – who are still publishing today there are many enthusiasts out there.

Feel free to share your personal memories of these delightful books, I would be thrilled to read how special they are to you.

ttfn x

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book review, Books, novel, reading

Summer Reading – Book Reviews

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This is the second Lesley Pearce book I have read, I picked this up reluctantly, I wasn’t thrilled about the last one, but was interested in this story and willing to give the author another try.

Coronation Day, 1953.
Molly Heywood has always been a pillar of strength for her local community, so when her friend Cassie fails to attend the Coronation Day party in the village, it is Molly who heads out in the rain to look for her.
But nothing can prepare Molly for what she is going to discover.
Now with Cassie gone and her six-year-old daughter Petal missing, it is up to Molly to head to London to uncover the past Cassie kept so well hidden.
But will Molly discover the truth before it’s too late? Or has Petal disappeared forever?

I found Molly a likeable character from the start, anyone who volunteers to run a children’s party has got to be nice! Cassie’s friendship broadens Molly’s outlook from the small village and she heads to the smoky streets of London not only to get a better life but to uncover what happened to Cassie’s daughter. Molly makes friends and enemies along the way and finally discovers who murdered Cassie.

I was reluctant to read another of Lesley Pearce’s novels because I find her characters a little on dimensional, they are either good or bad, with nothing in-between. I also dislike it when characters are given modern opinions – such as women’s equality and homosexuality. It just irks my sense of authenticity.

That said, this is an interesting tale, the story has its twists and turns, with a rather unexpected twist. Although I found once the mystery had been solved, the story continued along for another chapter – tying up loose ends, but for me it was simply padding.

A good read for a poolside holiday – I would classify it light hearted chic lit.

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Stephanie Lam’s stunning debut novel, The Mysterious Affair at Castaway House, is a gripping read laced with mystery, secrets and love.
It’s 1965 and eighteen year-old Rosie Churchill has run away to the beautiful but run-down Castaway House in the seaside town of Helmstone. But when she uncovers a scandal locked away in the walls of the old house, she soon comes to realise that neither her own troubled past nor that of the house will stay buried for long. . .
In 1924 fresh-faced Robert Carver comes to Castaway House to spend a languid summer in the company of his much wealthier cousin, Alec Bray. But the Brays are a damaged family, with damaging secrets. And little does Robert know that his world is about to change for ever.
As Rosie begins to learn more about Robert, the further she is drawn into the mysterious history of the house, and their stories, old and new, entwine.

This was an engaging mystery, I liked the two timelines although Robert’s tale was preferable. There are a number of links that bring the two timelines together, not least the House itself, re-invented in 1965 into small flatlets. The characters were well rounded, both timelines had their twists and turns, and I was drawn into the tale easily finding it difficult to put the book down. This is a great read, I can thoroughly recommend this book for a holiday and hope the writer publishes another soon!

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Since reading the book, the Woman In Black, I have been a huge fan of Susan Hill. She is a superb spinner of gothic ghost stories – don’t confuse the book with the film, which was not a patch on her novel. She weaves a tale in classic gothic tradition mixing cosy libraries and fire lit studies with chilling ghostly shadows. Read the woman in Black, it is one of her best, but these two smaller novelettes are a wonderful introduction to her writing.

The Man in the picture is the story of a haunting tale,  the picture appears to collect victims who are mesmerised by the scene depicted.

In the apartment of Oliver’s old professor at Cambridge, there is a painting on the wall, a mysterious depiction of masked revellers at the Venice carnival. On this cold winter’s night, the old professor has decided to reveal the painting’s eerie secret. The dark art of the Venetian scene, instead of imitating life, has the power to entrap it. To stare into the painting is to play dangerously with the unseen demons it hides, and become the victim of its macabre beauty.

This tale is engaging – I love the contrasts, warm cosiness of college rooms to chilly cold nights, passionate love and black hearted obsession. I love the way her novel time periods are hard to define, but they have such an element of early 20th century when most men were gentlemen – not easily shaken. It is a great tale to read on a long winter’s evening, while the fire softly crackles and settles down.

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Returning home from a client visit late one evening, Adam Snow takes a wrong turn and stumbles across the derelict old White House. Compelled by curiousity he decides to enter, only to be repelled when he feels the unmistakeable sensation of a small hand creeping onto his own. This is just the beginning of a series of odd experiences.

This has a more modern feel but still a male protagonist – our book dealer is not someone easily spooked, but the many incidents begin to unnerve him. All Susan Hill’s stories appear to revolve around similar characters, and I wonder if this helps us to take the ghostly apparitions seriously, men after all are supposed to be more logical and less emotional. What happens is believable, the mystery is slowly unravelled until we are left with a logical explanation and satisfying sense of justice. Definitely worth settling down for – though not in a rambling old house.

book review, Books, Nina George

The Little Paris Book Shop – book review

The Little Paris Bookshop

Bear with me, while I enthuse about another wonderful book!

This little delight, called the Little Paris Bookshop is written by phenomenal Nina George and translated from German into English by the talented Simon Pare.

Nina George is a wonderful story teller, there are some sublime pieces of writing that simply stopped me in my tracks; given that this has been translated, I have to admire Simon Pare for being able to translate so beguilingly.

It is different from anything else I have read – but does bear a slight resemblance to Paulo Coelho – in that there is an air of wisdom that simply slips off the page and does your soul some good. However, I found the characters in this book more accessible than Coelho’s; they are more emotional and less remote.

and very, very lovable.

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If you like the idea of a book apothecary where books can offer solace to the soul for every heartache then this is the book for you.

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I have peppered this post with quotes from the book, but I could not include all the pencilled highlights and margin notes because there are too many.

This is a book about love, not the falling boy meets girl type of candy floss, but the hard edged, gut wrenching, soul destroying heartache of love’s ending and how to come out the other side alive.

It is also about healing, hope and friendship.

This is not a story to scan in one sitting – this is a book to savour, slow down – read and re-read. I wanted to bask in these pages, in the way that Perdu prescribes a book to one of his customers:

‘This book which you will please read slowly, so you can take occasional break. You’ll do a lot of thinking and probably a bit of crying. For yourself, For the years. But you will feel better afterwards. You’ll know that now you don’t have to die, even if that is how it feels because a guy didn’t treat you well. And you will like yourself again.’

I ended up reading with pencil in hand underscoring and writing in the margins. I rarely keep fiction books, but this one will sit on my shelf and I imagine will be dusted off and fingered through when I need the solace and comfort.

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I admit here, there was one point in the book that really did hit home. I took a break, cried a little but mostly I felt comforted because I was not the only person to suffer in that way. I felt no longer alone with that small, tiny, heartache. And I felt absolved of blame, that it wasn’t my fault – and it was healing.

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For all Perdu’s ability to look at a customer and reach into their souls, touch their pain and prescribe the book that will heal them, Perdu is lost, (it took me a while to notice but his name is French for lost!). He cannot heal himself.

When he can’t over come his pain he distracts himself by healing other people in the vain hope it will silence the aching wail inside him. Its like a sort of deal we do with ourselves. We want to avoid feeling or expressing the hurt because we are frightened.  Thus Perdu has been running is book apothecary for twenty years – sending customers off with books that soothe their troubled souls and mend their broken hearts. Only, it is he who needs the healing most of all.

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At some point in our lives we have to face the heartache inside us, examine and feel it. Overcome the fear that we will drown in our own tears and let our crying begin – only when we have done this can we start to piece ourselves back together.

Perdu faces his pain by reading a letter written by his lover twenty years ago before she left him. He has reduced his life so much, in order to protect himself from any form of human contact. But he is forced to read the letter and the tight constrains he has placed on his life begin to crumble – he runs away.

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Everyone is carrying some form of pain or other -this book offers hope.  You will discover that your pain is not unique, others suffer the same maladies, just the names, times and places are different.

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This is also a tale of friendship – not the superficial kind – passing acquaintances that we see regularly – but the true friendship that develops when you are prepared to strip yourself emotionally naked of the culture and masks we wear in society and show another soul our scars. Those are the friendships that matter and not a process we can do with hundreds of people – a handful is too many, if you have one or two then you are blessed.

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We see this happen with Perdu on his journey south, the fear of expressing his pain had him locked down where only the feint brush of a cat around his leg was the only tender contact he bear without fear of breeching his defences.

‘Habit is a vain and treacherous goddess. She lets nothing disrupt her rule. She smothers one desire after another; the desire to travel, the desire for a better job or a new love. She stops us living as we would like, because habit prevents us from asking ourselves wether we continue to enjoy what we do.’

I think that is a very profound truth, one that we can all do with pondering now and then. I know that fear hides in many of the limitations we place in our lives in order to be ‘safe’. While security is a good thing, a little bit of danger and adventure makes us feel more alive!

Perdu is writing a Great Encyclopaedia of Small Emotions on his journey, collecting different experiences and noting them down. It is our thinking, that frames not just what we believe about ourselves but our world, our experiences and ultimately our lives. Science is already showing the close connection between thoughts and the body, even to the point of suggesting that in order for a disease in the body to begin we activate the messages that send out a trigger. These small emotions, these little heartaches are the things that eat away at us, if we aren’t careful, affects our health.

Perdu begins to participate in life again, no longer hiding in the shadows, but opening himself up to friendship and then to love. He makes peace with his lost love – he firstly begins to say her name eventually, finding forgiveness in his heart not just for her but himself.

With all these quotes it might seem that this book is a hard tome to plough through, but it isn’t.

It is an easy story to read – a canal boat trip with friends at the very least.

The tale gently unfolds, like the pace along the river itself.

The wisdom drifts off the pages like a feather resting gently on your lap – for you to take up if you wish.

The Little Paris Bookshop-14Our experience shapes us forever, the people we meet every day, the interactions, misunderstandings and aggression that is all around us; life does sometimes feel like a battle.

The ultimate anti-dote for stress is reading,  an escape into worlds where usually wrongs are righted, justice prevails and we can all be heroes. For me, they have always been a lifeboat – a place of sanctuary.

I read as a child, taking comfort and adventure from other children’s lives; the famous five, ballet shoes and the Chronicles of Narnia.

Reading preserved my sanity when my children were small, I would take long baths with a book – so I did not get distracted by the housework piling up around me.

What has reading done for you?

book review, Books

The Girl on the Train – Book Review

The Girl on the Train review

Brilliant read – the pace of the book never slackens as the stories unfold. There is an honesty about flawed characters; the three women in this book are all struggling one way or another and the theme running through is how women punish themselves.

I read a lot of reviews about the book before I bought it  – a lot of them stated that none of the characters were likeable, but I really felt for Rachel – yes she is an alcoholic, but as we travel through her story I had a lot of sympathy for her.

This is a story of hope,  I was only a third of the way in and I realised just how blessed my life was – Rachel’s loneliness seeped off the pages. She was at her lowest ebb and while she might have done awful things, I believe she was trying hard to please everyone around her. Imagine going to London by train every day and hanging about in Libraries because you don’t want your flatmate to know you have lost your job. She never burdened Cathy (her flatmate) with any of the pain she was suffering, why she was drinking, she carried her burdens alone. Its pity that prevented her from opening up, when you are at your lowest ebb, pity is unbearable.

Despite being labelled crazy, dismissed and scorned, she is very brave, she tries to help people, Scott, and Anna, even though they treat her with such contempt. Rachel does pull her life together the ending was very satisfying and hopeful.

Paula Hawkins writing is excellent, this story drew me in, the characters portrayed so well – and the pace relentless. It takes talent and skill to pull that off, I can’t wait to read more, for a first book this is an astounding achievement.

book review, Books, reading

Book Hangover

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I have a bit of a quandary, I have a large pile of books on my shelves waiting to be read and I keep on picking one or two up – reading a few pages and then get busy with something else. I did wonder if I had lost my reading mojo but a couple of books recently came to the fore and I discovered that I could still get lost in a book in fact I can read a really good one in a day!

I ran a book group once – my reading time was very limited (I had teenagers, full time job and other interests), I began to resent reading books that were frankly ‘hard work’ gritting my teeth as I read page after dreary page to discover my instincts were right after the first few pages; I had wasted valuable time that could have been better spent reading the multitude of books I want to read.

never let me go

I had a few books that ‘stretched me’ Never let you go, was one that I would never have read otherwise: a very haunting book, I can’t say it was pleasurable, but thought provoking. We read a couple of Jodi Picoult books – I loved the way she weaved modern dilemmas into stories like My Sisters Keeper and Faith- they offered some great subjects for discussion. When I moved away I was pleased to leave my book group behind, they were a lovely bunch but I wanted to choose for myself.

keeping faith

I ended up with the rule 72 (bear with me). I was wading through yet another dreary tome and noticed I was on page 72. I stopped reading and declared that unless a book was gripping me by that marker I would give myself permission to discard the book.

Its odd though, how something simple like reading can filter through other areas of our lives – leaving a book unread feels wrong, as if am am lacking in moral fortitude.

“You never stick at things’ is what comes to mind,

‘you always give up easily’

and my personal favourite,

‘no pain no gain’

(Well that particular one is discredited, we all know that Nietzsche ended up in an asylum, poor chap!)

There is a deep sense that I am missing something, that I don’t have the intelligence to really understand the narrative, there is shame too, my tomes aren’t high brow, or ‘improving’ literature, I read for pleasure – so why then, is it so difficult to abandon a book.

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There are so many wonderful adventures out there, I find bookshops terrifying sometimes – I want to walk away with armfuls picking one seems an impossible task. I don’t really have a specific genre – so I can’t narrow down my choice.

I wish I had a formula, if the book is about x then its definitely one to read, but no two books are the same – I can be really loyal to an author such as Mauve Binchy and Robert Goddard, but then I notice they all begin to merge – the same story different characters.

I know right now I have a book hangover so might not be in the right frame of mind, but I wonder if anyone else struggles as I do?

At present I am struggling with Suite Francaise – the film came out recently and so many people have told me  the book is sublime but I am bogged down reading about people fleeing from Paris!

Alongside is the Beachfront Bakery – I just don’t pick it up – its OK but not wow.

Miss Scarlett’s School of Patternless sewing had some brilliant reviews… but the sugary sweet women are not floating my boat either! It should work in theory, I love sewing, it was the same with the Friday Night Knitting club – I did not connect with the characters.

Perhaps it is time for a clean sweep, take them all to the charity shop and start afresh, without these novels silent reprimand I think I shall feel a whole lot better.

I must be careful though, I nearly bought a novel in a shop yesterday –  thought it would be great – only to remember as I was heading to the till it was one I had given them a month before!

My kindle seems to be much kinder… right now I am ready to settle down to The Girl On the Train… after Shazza’s book review.

ttfn x

1940's, book review, Books

The Darkest Hour – Barbara Erskine Book Review



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This is Barbara Erskine’s thirteenth tale – so I was expecting ghosts and time travel and I was not disappointed – in her usual style there are two stories running together in different times. I have read a couple of her novels – Hiding in the Light being one of my favourites so I was thrilled to spot this in Waterstones last weekend.

We have the story of Evie trying to make her name as a War Painter during the Battle of Britain. She has an arrangement with a neighbour called Eddie who has enough connections in the Art World to help her to achieve fame and fortune. However she meets Tony a pilot stationed at nearby Westhampnet and they fall in love. Of course no romance had a smooth course and this one has twists and turns that are only unravelled in the present day where Lucy is researching Evie’s life story for a biography – after her husband purchases one of Evie’s paintings. Sadly Lucy’s husband is killed in a hit and run accident which makes Lucy determined to complete the book. She makes contact with Evie’s family – who fall into two categories, those willing to help and support her book and those who are hostile. (There appears no room for middle ground!). Lucy is given access to a lot of Evie’s possessions including Evie’s home and art Studio – we begin to follow Evie’s story back through time and in Lucy’s research.

We have several ghosts – but these won’t keep you awake at night, Erskine writes novels that are more about unfinished business than hammer house horror.

If you want to read for yourself, best stop there and come back in case I spoil the story for you! 

I started this book as soon as I came back from the bookshop – I was immersed immediately and could not put it down – I found Lucy a likeable character and found Evie’s life interesting as she struggled with farm tasks and painting. What attracted me to this novel was that she had written about my local area, Lucy’s art gallery was based in Chichester – and the Battle of Britain played out across the Sussex Downs with several small airfields locally were the back drop for Evie’s tale.

I found the plot and storylines plausible but then midway through the book I found my enthusiasm waning.

I think I was frustrated – Evie’s section of the tale was getting repetitive, I lost count of the number of times Evie and Tony could not meet, wrote notes to each other saying they could not meet, only for them to meet briefly and the whole thing repeat itself. Her life was dull, milking cows, and painting – she only went out once and that was when she met Tony. Rachel (her mother) was more real, but I found the wailing haunting really odd, as was the woman living in the house in the present day.

Evie never really came across as a full bodied character – she was passive, it was hard to relate to her. I thought it might have been better if we could have had some of her diary entries written in the first person – I needed to understand how she ticked, what she felt – it was all in the third person so she never really came alive.

When she was laying with Tony in the thunderstorm was the closest we had to understanding Evie she was wildly exuberant, it would have been nice for them to have spent more time together, so that the depth of their feelings was understandable. Maybe even meetings where they felt soul to soul – instead they simply met and fell in love. Tony creeping in the house at night to her upstairs bedroom was odd, it did not seem likely that Evie’s father would have tolerated that for one minute – I imagine any man would take that as an insult to his household. Tony would have been a bit of a cad for doing that sort of thing. Why did it have to be sex, why not the pictures or a local dance?

There were other elements of the story that I began to struggle with:

Lucy’s story was more interesting, but she was also passive. Other supporting characters drove the story, dealt with the ghosts, dropped research into her hands – everyone was rallying round her and she really did not do much to bring the story together, in the end I was irritated by her. I thought that Caroline had more substance, I knew what motivated her, she had passion whereas Lucy seemed to drift through her research as she drifted through everyone else’s home.

I also found it odd that despite Lucy’s husband dying in the first few pages, she never misses him and falls in love quite easily! (I’m not telling you who – read it and see!)

Yet, I enjoyed it because I read it solidly for a week – there was enough of a mystery to keep me guessing and it did all come together.

I believe I learned quite a lot from this book – the story itself was very good – I love two stories and unravelling mysteries. I also like to believe that ghosts have unfinished business!

I would recommend it to my friends, they may not have the same reservations – I would love to hear from other readers about how they found it.

Hiding from the light

I can recommend Hiding from the Light – I thought it was one of her best. About the Witch-finder General – a haunted cottage and of course Witches and ghosts!

Books, Poem

Adventures of a Bookworm

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I am not a poet, sometimes I catch one – just like a butterfly –  if I am lucky I have time to write it down. Today, while my eyes strayed to the bookshelves (I have them in every room), this little poem popped in my head.

My bookshelves brim, both high and low

Of adventures and places, I’d like to go

Shall I journey back in time?

Or take a boat trip on the Rhine?

Traverse the galaxy, explore black holes

or find a way to save our souls?

I’ll take a course, I’ll  learn to speak,

In Russian, Spanish, Dutch and Greek.

Unravel mysteries, solve fiendish crime,

Battle, Nazis and Ghouls, and win every time.

Between the covers of a book

Adventures lurk, just take a look

A tale of courage, a life of strife,

Of how a man met and woo’d his wife.

When times are hard or the weather’s bleak

I’ll go and fight Pirates in Martinique

I have no need of plane or car

To travel places near and far

Just a cup of tea, a cosy chair

Peace and quiet, time to spare.

Upon my bookshelf, crammed in tight

Adventures call both day and night.

Susanna Di Milo

(c)2015

book review, Books

Book Review – Little Lies Liane Moriarty

Another gripping page turner
Another gripping page turner

Liane Moriarty is a genius!

The sign of a good book is when I think about the characters even when I am not reading, Maddie, Jane and Celeste felt as real as my own friends.

Liane Morriaty creates believable characters – Maddie was my favourite, maybe the one I can relate to the most because she loves a bit of drama! she is far from perfect, a bit of a stirrer, but has the best of intentions.  The characters seem to struggle with the similar issues, big and small, grappling with modern family life. The school gate mothers were so true to life here in the UK I enjoyed a giggle as I could pinpoint a Renata alongside the blonde bobs! My school yard experience seems not quite as unique as I thought, I spent many a terrifying time quaking in my boots waiting for my children to come out of school!

I have to admit the story telling gave me a little headache at first, you flit through so many characters, it seems to hop from one to another but this is put to good use as the tension builds and grows until I found myself reading well into the early hours! The observations that come from minor characters give more depth to the main characters, you get to see them through different eyes.

What could be more hilarious than fighting men wearing Elvis Costumes while a host of Audrey’s gaze on?  Murder might not be a usual occurrence at a school event, but its the humanity that Liane weaves into her tales that makes all her books such gripping reads, ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. We might dislike some characters, they may behave in unreasonable ways, judgemental attitudes, bullying that occurs not just among the children. Domestic violence is tackled with understanding and realism, constructed in such a way that it is credible, it helped me to understand why domestic victims have mixed emotions.

It does reach a satisfactory conclusion, we do discover who the murderer is, and more importantly who the victim is, and I am smug enough to report that I guessed correctly! (Perhaps its written so well that the clues are easy to follow!) The loose ends are tied up so neatly, that I found myself smiling as I read the end; although somewhat disappointed that I had lost a host of wonderful entertaining friends.

I cannot recommend this book enough, alongside the Husband’s secret, What Alice Forgot and the Hypnotist’s love story.

If you haven’t discovered Liane Morriaty yet, then I am envious! She is a tremendous writer, I am sure it won’t be long before we see one of her books on film.

ttfn x

book review, Books, Chick Lit, Jenny Colgan, reading, The Sweetshop of dreams

Book Review – Sweet Shop of Dreams

Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful…. its the time of year for snuggling down with a good book. We have spent a couple of Sunday afternoons companionably reading; the ticking of the clock being the only sound to compete with the beating of the rain on the windows. One of us will break to make a pot of tea – usually there’s some cake or other. 
I read many books at once: a lot of spiritual development books that simply cannot be read in one go, sometimes it is nice just to read something that is not to taxing. 
This book is a lovely read, the main character, Rosie, is very endearing, she leaves behind a rather grey existence in London to travel to a remote village in Darbyshire to tend to her elderly aunt, Lillian. 
Alongside the Rosie’s tale is Lillian’s story of lost love, a wartime romance that was never given the chance to grow. I found Lillian’s story deeper and somehow more substantial than Rosie’s comical exploits as she comes to term with living in a strange place. 
There appears to be a quotations from a ‘book about sweets’ with most of the chapters having a page dedicated to a particular type of sweet – old fashioned ones, fudge, liquorish etc. It is never quite clear if this is Lillian’s writing or simply quotations from an old book. With all three being separate it made it rather difficult at first to get into the story, but by the middle I became used to the disjointed nature. 
While it is a fairly satisfying read, I felt that it could have been better. I was waiting for Rosie and Lillian to bond, but oddly enough they never really have a good conversation. I found it most odd that Rosie arrived at Lillian’s house late in the evening and the following morning Rosie simply gets up and leaves the house to explore. I found that a little unbelievable, it would be incredibly rude so the relationship between these characters never really establishes itself. Rosie does nurse Lillian, but they are kept apart, the writer even resorts to conversations held on a child monitor. 
I imagined some form of connection between old and young, with Lillian tutoring Rosie in the art of sweet making, but all that happens is that Rosie simply orders sweets from suppliers. The sweetshop could have been far more magical. The sudden emergence of another character to help run the shop so that Rosie can spend time with her man seemed a bit too easy. 
I miss Mauve Binchy, she would have really brought the characters alive, I used to end her books feeling I was saying goodbye to dear friends, but I did not have that connection with Rosie or Lillian. 
Its an enjoyable quick read, like eating a boiled sweet, nice while it lasts but not really substantial, but then that is what Chick Lit is after all. 
ttfn x

book review, Books, novel, reading, RS Pateman, The second life of Amy Archer

Book Review – The Second Life of Amy Archer



On 31st December 1999 Beth Archer’s daughter, Amy, disappeared without a trace. Ten years later Beth is still bound by her grief, separated from her husband Brian, and still trying to come to terms with her daughter’s body never being found.
On the tenth anniversary of Amy’s disappearance, a woman called Libby comes to Beth and introduces her daughter Esme, to her. An uncanny double of Amy that knows details that only Beth and Amy would know, Libby insists that Amy has been reborn in Esme.
The tension and inner turmoil of the main character, Beth, is palpable on every page. Pateman maintains the momentum right though the books journey, Beth’s frenetic swings of belief or disbelief in re-incarnation; combined with the slow unravelling of the events of her daughter’s disappearance is tantalising, we get glimpses of the past cleverly mixed with the present day. I read this book in a day, because I could not put it down. 
I have an open mind about re-incarnation, cleverly Pateman’s Beth is not a believer – she so desperately wants to hold her daughter again, it is almost too much to bear that she cannot bring herself to believe. The innocent Esme pulls at the heartstrings, her knowledge of the past is convincing, she is unaware of the pain she causes in her throw away remarks, revealing dark secrets that even Beth has repressed. 
Beth’s emotional swings and unravelling, the way women and mothers are judged in society, maternal guilt and deep harrowing grief are so well written that it amazed me to discover that Pateman was a man! 
The only niggle is the connection of Esme and Amy’s past, it seemed a bit tenuous, but that aside, it is a very good tale, one that will have you reading deep into the night. 

Well done Mr Pateman, this is an outstanding debut novel, can’t wait to read the next one!